DEL MAR TIMES
The Surfer and Bill.
It begins in San Francisco, in the late fifties, in the section of San Francisco known as outer mission. A pencil thin surfer wandered the streets visiting surfer pals; like Tambi, Minor Lo, and Da Fly.
One day his friend George suggested they go to Hawaii, and being of surfer consciousness, they left that afternoon. During this trip, the surfer went out seeking work, and discovered he didn’t have much to offer. The epiphany broadened into an apprenticeship as a carpenter on the mainland. After a few months of instruction, he was ready for the Contractors State Board exam. He passed the test, and returned to San Francisco to pick up the license.
About this time, he met Bill, a man who owned a home in Sea Cliff. Bill was often seen puttering about his house, attempting to fix things that he didn’t know how to fix. Bill and the surfer became friends. Bill was happy to hear that the young man was carving another wave in his life. Bill was a sort of western style renaissance man, who chose people because of character, leaving behind details like, age, occupation, and all the other things that divide us.
He invited the surfer into his home and asked him if he could make some alterations to the fireplace. The surfer complied and began his first job in the trade of carpentry. Bill and his family liked the surfer, and it was a mutual friendship. After the fireplace was finished, the surfer began another job and another and soon, if you wanted to find the surfer, you had to ask Bill.
The surfer lingered around San Francisco, and the years ripened the friendship between the surfer and Bill, his wife Martha, his three sons, Carl, Gavin, and Walter, and his daughter Wendy. Now the surfer was of the age that falls between peer and pupil, and all of his friends belonged to the surfing colony. Bill once told me that the surfer told the most astonishing stories, and that he was loved like a part of the family.
One day, the surfer decided to leave San Francisco, and follow his girlfriend to Santa Barbara, where she was studying at the University. This didn’t work out the way the surfer thought it would, and so he returned to San Francisco. He went back to the old neighborhood where Bill lived. It happened that Bill decided to move to San Diego, and so the surfer was waving goodbye. A few more years pass while the surfer hung around his surfer friends down at Kelly’s Cove, and watched the city of San Francisco from the lap of the pacific. When he needed money, he worked for Tambi, carrying his ladder, or stirring cement, and then returned to the stillness of floating with the ocean.
One day the surfer received a phone call from Bill, asking for the surfers help. Bill bought a home and business in La Jolla and both needed renovating. The surfer knew the area as he had surfed the Pacific from San Francisco to Ensenada. Bill asked the surfer if he would move down to La Jolla for a while. Naturally, the surfer accepted this offer, and so Bill flew the surfer down to La Jolla. He paid his expenses and gave him a key to an ocean front hotel room at Capri By the Sea. The surfer hung over the terrace of his new post, watching the Board Walk and thought he was the luckiest man in the world. Bill introduced the surfer around La Jolla, and he began working and meeting Bill’s friends. The time fell into one long sunrise to sunset, of work, companionship, and surfing.
Now, we take a giant leap forward to the summer of 2007 and to Colorado Springs. It would be the first time that I would meet Gavin, one of Bill’s sons. It had been many years since the surfer, whom you may have guessed by now, is my best friend, who goes by the name of Soaring Crow, had seen Gavin. I had heard about him for so many years, from Bill and Martha, and from Soaring Crow. Gavin was the travel writer; he covered ski resorts, ranches and rodeos.
We drove up a tree-lined street and parked in front of an unpretentious Victorian house. A man galloped down the walkway, he was tall and broad, with an easy grin, and mercurial eyes. Gavin brought us into his home and placed our luggage in his bedroom.
“You guys sleep here, the sheets are clean.”
“Where will you sleep?” I asked.
“I’ll sleep outside, I do all the time.”
The welcome was expansive, as if I was about to go on a Ferris wheel, or ski lift. SC and Gavin had seen one another at a family wedding years ago, but this was the first get together. I adore these inevitable reunions tied to our past, and so I sat on the edge and mused their fellowship. We filed into the den, where Gavin picked up a pair of electric guitars and the two strummed away the years inside surf tunes. I poured wine, and took photographs. After dinner, the room was familiar and quiet. Gavin showed us a picture of Bill dressed in western gear next to a horse.”
“I never knew he was a cowboy?” I said.
“Well, he was. He grew up around horses.”
“And you’re a cowboy too?”
“Used to be a cowboy, not anymore. Once a cowboy stops riding, he stops being a cowboy.”
“You sound just like Bill.” I said.
“Everyone says that.”
We lingered around the table until late in the night, and stories rolled out from the heart. Gavin’s rooms had exploded with his story telling tools, piles of black and white photography were stacked on the ground, books, and records and sporting equipment. He raked through a stack and handed me a photograph of a rodeo rider.
“ I love that photograph, it’s wonderful.” I said.
“ Take it, take any of them you want.”
The next morning, we had breakfast at the Broadmore Hotel, surrounded by gardens and river walks. I exuded small bites of Gavin’s adventures, as a freelance journalist, columnist for the Rocky Mountain News, and traveling with the Rodeo. He was the sparkling image of Bill, authentic and understated.
After breakfast, we drove to the Valley of the Gods.
Gavin jumped out of the car and trotted ( he does not ever walk) to a spot overlooking the rugged insubordinate Valley.
“ This is where part of Bill rests, the other part is in the ocean, isn’t that neat.”
“ You can visit him all the time.”
“ Yep, I do.”